Italian card games
Table of Contents
Playing card games has always been a favorite activity for the Italian people. In the past, Italy was comprised of multiple minor individual territories, which resulted in the development of different regional styles of playing cards. Because of that, several card decks can be used in the gameplay.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the 3 of the most famous Italian card games today – Scopa, Briscola and Tressette. They are all 4 player card games and are available for free at VIP Games.
But if you are familiar only with the standard French card deck, you will need more clarification. So first, let’s talk a little bit about the meaning of the special symbols used in the Italian deck of cards.
Italian playing cards
The design of the Italian cards is closely related to the Spanish playing cards. Almost every major region in Italy has a specific deck – Bergamasco, Trentino, Siciliano, Napoletano, and Toscano are just a few of them.
We will focus on the Napoletano (Napoletane) type. The use of these playing cards is widely spread in the central and southern areas of the country.
All three games we will talk about can be played with the Napoletano deck. It consists of 40 cards that are grouped into 4 suits. The names of the suits are as follows: bastoni (clubs), denari (coins), coppe (cups), and spade (swords). Each suit contains 10 cards – 1 (ace), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, fante (jack), cavallo (knight), re (king). The value of the cards is different depending on the game.
The visual patterns on the cards are very distinguishing from other decks. It includes several distinctive cards, such as the 3 of Clubs with its grotesque mask, and the 5 of Swords with its images of farming operations. The Ace (1) of Coins is also beautifully designed – with a double-headed eagle forming two circles.
Arguably, Scopa is the most played Italian card game. At VIP Games you have the option to play it either with 2 or 4 players. The objective is to win more points than the opponents.
In Scopa, each card has 2 different values – a capture and a prime value. The capture value is used when winning tricks during the game. The prime value is important when calculating the round score.
At the beginning of the game, each player receives 3 cards. Then the dealer places 4 cards on the table face-up. The remaining cards form the Stock.
Players start to take turns and try to capture some of the cards on the table. They either capture a single card of the same value or a few cards whose combined values are equal to the played card. Capturing cards is not mandatory, and players can place cards on the table when it’s their turn. The players get three more cards from the Stock after using the three they already have. Up until all cards have been played, this process is repeated.
Scopa is called the capturing of all cards on the table. Players get an additional point for every Scopa they do.
For the complete rules, visit our dedicated Scopa rules page.
Briscola is a trick-taking card game, so winning more tricks is crucial to the final victory. The cards with the highest values are the Aces, followed by the 3s and the Kings.
As in Scopa, each player receives 3 cards. After that, the next card is turned on the table thus determining the trump for the hand. The rest of the cards are used as Stock.
The gameplay is simple and easy to learn. Players take turns placing cards on the table, and the card with the highest value wins the trick. When a trump card is played, the trick is won by the highest value trump. After each trick, players take 1 card from the Stock.
To win the round, a team must score at least 61 points (from 120 total).
Read the full rules of Briscola.
Tressette is also a trick-tacking card game, very similar to Briscola. The main difference is that there is no trump suit. The cards used in each of the suits are listed below, from strongest to weakest, in order of strength:
- 3, 2, 1, King, Knight, Jack, 7, 6, 5, 4.
At the start, each player receives 10 cards so all the cards are dealt. After that, the game starts and players try to win more tricks than the opponents. The card with the highest value wins the current trick.
Find more info about the Tressette card game.
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